News & Events

Upcoming Events


Harvard-Münster Workshop “Text and Ritual in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism”

Starting from 2022, Profs. Christophe Nihan (Münster) and Julia Rhyder (Harvard) will be holding an annual workshop devoted to researching various aspects of ritual and ritualization and their role in the formation, transmission, and authority of Jewish scriptural traditions in the Second Temple period. From a methodological and theoretical perspective, some basic assumptions underlying the workshop can be summarized as follows: (1) much of what we call “religion” in antiquity is actually related to ritual and ritualization, whether performed or imagined, or a combination of both; (2) the complex interaction between “text” and “ritual” – texts shaping rituals and rituals shaping texts – while common to the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern world, plays a predominant role in the development of ancient Judaism; (3) researching the nexus between “text” and “ritual” in ancient Judaism in its ancient context(s) forces us to question and challenge not only our concepts of ritual but also our concepts of text inherited from 19th-century philology, and therefore has broader implications for the study of textualization and scripturalization in the Second Temple period.

Based on these assumptions, the general aim of the Workshop will be to examine or reexamine key aspects of the relationship between text and ritual in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple literature, by combining and contrasting (a) ancient Jewish sources on rituals and ritualization (mainly textual, but taking also into account archaeological evidence when relevant); (b) contemporary theories on ritual and ritualization; and (c) comparative evidence from ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern contexts. 

The first workshop will take place at Harvard on September 21-22, 2022, with the topic "Biblical sacrifices outside the Pentateuch (Prophets)"


Symposium: "Antiochus III’s Edict(s) to Jerusalem: Between Imperial Stress and Local Agency"

The first decades of Seleucid rule in Judea are strikingly quiet in comparison to the tumultuous events of the 160s BCE. Some suggest that, during these decades, antagonism towards foreign rule brewed, eventually leading to the Maccabean revolt. Alternatively, other scholars have suggested that the initial decades of the second century manifested fruitful cooperation with, and integration of local Judean elites within the imperial system, and that it was only with Antiochus IV that the relations between the Jews and Seleucids broke down.

This symposium engages with this debate by bringing together leading scholars in the study of Hellenistic Judea and the Seleucid world more broadly to review two key pieces of evidence that relate to the first decades of Seleucid rule in the southern Levant during the reign of king Antiochus III. These are two edicts issued by the Seleucid king regarding Jerusalem, and which are preserved in Josephus’s Antiquities book 12 (§§ 138–146). These two, likely authentic, documents originate in the aftermath of the fifth Syrian war that saw the Seleucids take over Coele Syria and Phoenicia, including Judea. In the decrees, the Seleucid king provides benefactions and ordinances for the city of Jerusalem, its inhabitants, its temple, and its staff. These decrees therefore provide a unique testimony for the political, social, economic, and cultic factors that shaped the beginning of Seleucid rule in Judea.

The symposium aims (a) to map the topics arising from the decrees and needing attention, as well as those areas of agreement and disagreement between scholars engaged in the study of Seleucid Judea and Hellenistic Judaism; (b) to bridge the gap between the dichotomies of resistance to and cooperation with empire, or independence and subordination, in the array of possible Judean responses to Seleucid imperial rule; (c) to identify and discuss ways in which these documents may improve our understanding not only of Judean politics but also of economics and religion in the late third and early second century, and the “temple-centered” nature of the Judean polity in the Hellenistic era.

Co-organizers: Rotem Avneri Meir and Julia Rhyder

Sponsor: Center for Jewish Studies

Harvard University, April 20–21, 2023


Past Events


David Noel Freedman Prize for Excellence and Creativity in Hebrew Bible Scholarship

Award session held at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, San Antonio, November 21, 2021.

Paper title: “The Origins of the Jewish Pig Taboo: Pig Consumption and Ethnicity from Leviticus to the Maccabees.”